Will the fallen giant of French football, AS Monaco, ever regain their status as one most potent forces in French football? That is the question on the lips of their supporters as they sit precariously atop the French Ligue 2 table, with winning form starting to desert them a little bit.
An immediate bounce back to the top flight after suffering the heartbreak of relegation at the end of last season would be a great tonic for them getting back on their feet, but there remains much work to be done. Their 18th spot finish in Ligue 1 is not so distant a memory that it won’t be fuelling fires in the bellies of the club’s administration to get them back to the top.
With Monaco struggling last season in Ligue 1, Laurent Banide, a former coach of the club, was unable to get the club back on track and saw his side relegated to Ligue 2. While they looked competitive enough in the early new season to make a return to the top flight, with just two wins in their last six matches in the league, they have been drawn into a tight fight for the top spot. It could be a long season ahead for AS Monaco, but one of the most interesting things about them, is that they should still make a very attractive proposition for top managers. The current man in charge is former Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri.
Why are Monaco attractive? Because of the backing which they have from Russian magnate Dmitry Rybolovlev. The Principality club has heavy financial backing, with the owner keen to get Monaco back among the elite in Europe. They are long way from the greatness of their glory days, when they were a force to be reckoned with in Europe, reaching the 2004 Champions League final. But AS Monaco are in a strange place right now. They have the financial backing which many of Europe’s tops clubs right now would be envious of, and while there is a renaissance happening at the club, it needs to gather pace quickly.
AS Monaco have spent unprecedented money for a club which sits outside of the top flight in any European country. They have the funding, they have attracted new players who are giving AS Monaco a brand new start, a whole new identity with a lack of household names that even the Monaco fans will not have gotten to embrace yet. It is a strange journey back to the top with Rybolovlev guiding them, the Russian philanthropist coming into save them from bankruptcy.
From the outside, it may seem like nothing more than a toy for Rybolovlev, because AS Monaco are unable to expand their stadium beyond its current relatively small capacity and therefore there are restrictions in profit that will ever be garnered from the club, even if they were to conquer the European continent. But nonetheless it appears to be a quiet French revolution going on in the Principality and the Russian’s ambition for the club, lead to the approach of Manchester City’s Roberto Mancini to take over the managerial position in the summer.
Some serious money was thrown at Mancini in the hope of luring him across the English channel, but the Italian decided to stick with City after winning the Premier League. Instead, Mancini’s fellow countryman Ranieri was drafted in. With Paris St Germain riding the crest of a heavy investment wave from new backers, Monaco are never going to reach the same status of the Paris elite. AS Monaco are a club with inflexible restrictions and why season tickets can be purchased for less than €40. Their average attendance last season didn’t crack 5,000, so the importance of Rybolovlev’s money is clear. Without it, the ailing club may have already slumped to its death. Can it survive and use Rybolovlev’s money to resuscitate new life and new interest in the Principality?